Cameras Get Connected – So What?

Alan Bullock
Aug 22, 2014


Since 2005, InfoTrends has advocated for connected cameras. In the early days of smartphones, it was their built-in connectivity and the instant sharing that it enabled that helped to nibble away at low-end digital camera sales. Despite obstacles like mediocre image quality and expensive data plans, a large number of consumers chose the convenience of mobile photography over the superior image quality of even the simplest standalone cameras. Today (finally), more than half of the new cameras introduced by major manufacturers feature built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, but is it enough to make a difference?

Results from InfoTrends’ recent 2014 U.S. Connected Devices End-user Survey suggest that it may be. Respondents who take digital camera photos or shoot digital video with a digital camera or camcorder and also use a smartphone were asked how interested they would be in the ability to wirelessly transfer photos or video from their camera to their smartphone. Nearly two-thirds were at least somewhat interested in such a feature, while less than 20% expressed disinterest. When those respondents who were interested in wireless transfer were asked how having that capability would affect the use of their digital camera, nearly 60% said they thought they would use their camera more.

But again, is wireless transfer enough? By itself, the answer is no. While camera vendors were figuring out how to add connectivity to their cameras, smartphone image quality has improved significantly, and data prices have fallen while speeds have dramatically improved. This adds up to a much better photo sharing experience than is possible with most digital cameras—even those with built-in Wi-Fi. As a result, InfoTrends’ research shows, about 75% of U.S. consumers consider their smartphones to be their primary camera for most everyday picture-taking occasions. At the same time, those who also own a digital camera are more likely to choose it for more important occasions such as vacations, weddings, graduations, and other family gatherings, as well as for creative and artistic photography. (See this recent InfoBlog for more.)

InfoTrends’ Opinion
InfoTrends believes that Wi-Fi connectivity should be table stakes for virtually every camera in every manufacturer’s portfolio, with additional focus on the features that still offer an advantage over mobile devices—features like extended zoom lens, larger image sensor, and superior low-light sensitivity. They will not only appeal to advanced users who are still interested in cameras, but also to current smartphone users who will develop a passion for photography as a hobby, an art form, or even a profession, and will soon be shopping for a camera.
A Wi-Fi connection need not be the end of the camera vendor’s involvement with their customers’ photos. In fact, it should be the on-ramp to other services that help consumers do more with their photos, including safe storage, organization, sharing, and output. While any of these could be developed in-house, partnering with other existing service providers and technology developers will likely be a more expedient approach.

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InfoTrends’ 2014 U.S. Connected Devices End-user Survey asked more than 1,400 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 79 about their use of smartphones, tablets, and Internet-connected TV, with an emphasis on a number of photo and printing activities. For more information, please contact Matt O’Keefe (matt.okeefe@infotrends.com or +1 781.616.2115) or visit the InfoTrends Report Store.

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